Paul James, MIC - - Winter and Rock Climbing Conditions

Thursday, 27 February 2014

27-02-14, Hell's Lum, Cairngorms - Winter Climbing

We were starting to develop gills in the NW so decided that even though The Cairngorms are Marks local patch, the weather was going to be optimal and allow us to be more productive. Up at early o'clock drive and arrive at Ski car park at 8am, over the back to Hell's Lum. Deep-cut Chimney in excellent condition, some drippy ice from the sun in the middle of the crag, but deep in the chimney some great icy pitches and a dry mixed climbing finish over the chock stone. Great weather and conditions, snow hard and frozen underfoot almost from car park, some sun and some wind, plenty of views, cornices are still big. A few ski tourers about, a team skied Alladdin's couloir.

26-02-14, Beinn Eighe and Liathach - Winter Climbing

I have been working in the North-West Highlands for the past four days. Slightly frustrating weather. Big thaw over the weekend with lots of rain, however there is still plenty of snow about. It was slushy on Monday, we climbed George, didn't want to risk a mushy Poacher's. Tuesday very good weather day, walked into Triple Buttresses on Beinn Eighe and climbed East Buttress, most excellent route, remote feel and fairly long and intimidating. The snow was hard neve from the base of the corrie up, surprisingly different to other places in Torridon that day. In general the buttress were dry with hard useful snow on the ledges. Wednesday more driving rain and felt warm, freezing level much higher than forecast! When it becomes dryer and cold conditions will be fabulous.
New difficulties on George, quite banked out I think.
Monday after the 48 hour rain assisted thaw.
Poacher's Falls looking healthy, but not that great an idea in those temperatures.
Awesome Triple Buttresses. 
Broad Terrace approach to East Buttress.
East Buttress, Beinn Eighe IV,5 ***

Monday, 17 February 2014

17-02-14, Coire an t-Sneachda, Cairngorms - Winter Mountaineering

Seth's first day out in the Scottish winter today. The full winter experience, some ice axe arrest practice, walking in crampons and some mountaineering over the Fiaciall Ridge. It was poor visibility most of the day, breezy and cold - enough up high anyhow.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

16-02-14, Coire an t-Sneachda, Cairngorms - Winter Mountaineering Skills

Some more Winter Mountaineering Skills today. A fabulous day, great views and light winds. The team revisited some essential winter skills, navigation and ice axe arrest, before ascending some steeper ground using the rope to protect themselves along the way. Plenty of folk on Fiaciall ridge, some teams on Fiaciall Buttress, Aladdin's Buttress and the Mess of Pottage, slopes looked very loaded though, especially goat track side. Very busy ski centre this morning, top car park full by 8:30, train not quite open because of too much drifted snow, large queues on the tows.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

15-02-14, Cairngorms - Winter Mountaineering Skills

This weekend I am back at Glenmore Lodge on a 2 day Winter Mountaineering course. The weather was not that bad, cold, with poor visibility above 800m, some fresh snow and not too windy. The team of 4 especially wanted to look at using a rope to secure themselves to the mountain when on steep ground as well as revisiting some essential winter skills. We spent a few hours in a classroom, getting some basic rope work and knots sorted. Outside chatted about some avalanche considerations as we ascended a broad ridge line, got to grips with crampons and moving up steep ground. Looked at how we can secure ourselves to blocks and the snow with bucket seats, re-enforced with buried axes, plus how to descend very steep ground by abseiling off a snow bollard.

Friday, 14 February 2014

14-02-14, Sgor Gaoith, Cairngorms - Winter Skills

This week has been has been fairly stormy and challenging. The team have been out in and experienced winter! Now they have some winter skills to unleash in the future. An introduction to navigation on Meall a Bhuachaille on Tuesday. More winter navigation and cramponing on Castle Hill and Creag a Chalamain on big Wednesday. Some snow hole shelter digging on the side of A' Chailleach on Thursday. Today over Sgor Gaith and Carn Ban Mor, putting all skills into practice.

Monday, 10 February 2014

10-02-14, Cairngorms - Winter Skills

 Today I have been working on day 1 of a week long winter skills course at Glenmore Lodge. We walked up into Coire Laogh Mor, discussed much about avalanches and avoidance, there is plenty of wind slab up there. Looked at boot and axe work to ascend and put crampons on to ascend even higher on some scoured icy ground. The weather was fairly pleasant, views and a light breeze. The snow below 800m has been saturated and re frozen where as above it has just been blown and there is plenty of wind slab.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

08-02-14, Cairngorms - Stormy end of week review

 Very stormy in Cairngorms, high winds, blizzards, ski road closed all day. Day 7 and last day with me for Karl. No climbing but a review of skills and experiences learn't over the day and a couple of extra technical things that will be useful in the future. The woods on the edge of Loch Morlich at the start, looking at tying off coils, how to climb a rope with prusiks and un-assisted hoists for crevasse rescue. The kind gentlemen on the Ski road closed gates allowed me to drive to the Ciste car park, where we found the first steep bit of snow to re look at snow anchors, bucket seats and buried axes. Then off to Huntley's Cave to put some more rock climbing gear into cracks, looking at making sound belays.

Friday, 7 February 2014

07-02-14, Lurcher's Crag, Cairngorms - Winter Climbing

Karl smashing it in on Right Hand Ice fall, Lurcher's Crag.
Day 6 of Karls - Winter Mountaineer/Climber course - Ice Climbing today. We walked into Lurcher's Crag, along with a fair few other teams. Quite hard going walking when not in the track, the ice wasn't as good as I would have hoped either. Fairly buried, but there is ice. Right Hand Ice fall gave Karl a grade III experience, looking at ice climbing technique, ice screw placements and Abalakov threads.

Sron na Lairige
Left and Right Hand Icefall
Abalakov Threads
Northern Corries - looks like no change!

Thursday, 6 February 2014

06-02-14, Creagan Coire Cha-no, Cairngorms - Winter Climbing

 Busy day at Cha-No crag today, 10 teams! Beautiful start, sunny, light breeze, after the second route the top out was very different, wet snow at 950m and windy. 4 days on the top and 4 white outs - I think Karl is starting to get the Scottish winter thing! There was some impressive cornices forming on the east facing crag and plenty of wind slab around the base. Today was about doing some mixed climbing with 2 axes, building on knowledge of rock gear placements by looking at winter gear as well. We down climbed Recovery Gully which is very hard and icy on the Anvil Buttress side, climbed Wile-E-Coyote, then did a multi-pitch abseil descent and climbed Anvil Gully - in good condition with some fine snow ice as well as rock hooks.

Busy on Jenga Buttress, 5 teams!
First top out slightly different feel than the second above!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

04-02-14, Coire an t-Sneachda, Cairngorms - Winter Mountaineering

 Today there was a slight lull in the winds, only the 45mph! Anyway a day to get something done up high. Coire an t-Sneachda, some grade I+ ground up the Twin Ribs onto the Fiaciall Coire an t-Sneachda then over the Fiaciall Ridge. Still windy on the summits and poor visibility. Cornices in general are massive, lots of think rime ice plastering everything, plenty of wind slab about although there was some scoured ground near Fiaciall Buttress. We were joined by many people on the ridge, and there were a few climbers out on the Fiaciall Buttress itself and approaching Aladdin's Buttress.

Monday, 3 February 2014

03-02-14, Cummingston, Moray Coast - Trad Rock Climbing

 Avoided the windy mountains today. The north facing tidal Cummingston on the Moray coast, was very pleasant and sandy! Even though we were escaping the weather, it was a valuable day for Karl, on his 7 day quest to learn all he can about winter climbing and mountaineering, as trad climbing is something he has done very little of. We climbed a lot of routes from Moderate - Hard Severe in trainers, along the way looking at belaying, runner placements, building solid anchors and abseiling.